Lent and preparing for Easter

By Jenny Anderson

How do you prepare good liturgy? We don’t have to start from scratch; we have a framework that has stood the test of time. It can be found in the Missal.

The Mi0ssal provides the structure for every liturgy, like the frame of a house. We also have a set of standards, if you like, about how it works, a guide to best practice. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, or come up with something new. We have our frame and our guidelines.

In the case of the liturgy, the guidelines can be found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

The General Instruction has guidelines for how to prepare. What parts are essential for the liturgy to stand? What parts can be changed to adapt to architecture or environment?

What parts need to be chosen to suit the local community in this time and place? What will speak to the season or circumstances the community find themselves in?

All of this is in the Missal and the General Instruction. From there, it is time to understand the liturgical season, the culture and languages of the people celebrating, the songs they know and love, the flowers that are in season, and so forth. This is where liturgy preparation happens.

Will we use the long or short form of the reading? Which Eucharistic prayer will be prayed? Which Mass setting will be sung? How will we prepare the environment? There are lots of great resources that can help you reflect on these questions.

As March begins this year, we enter the season of Lent and start preparing to celebrate Easter.

Lent is a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the celebration of Easter. It prepares catechumens (those preparing to be received into the Church) for initiation, and prepares the faithful to renew their baptismal promises.

As Archbishop Christopher Prowse pointed out last month, it is a Kairos time: an opportunity to step out of our ordinary, everyday activities and be deliberate in seeking and responding to God with silence, stillness and simplicity. It is a time for conversion of heart.

This is what our liturgies should reflect during Lent. We allow more space for silence and stillness – for a community that is not used to silence, this can be challenging.

Our environment can also reflect this simplicity. Look around your liturgical space. What can be simplified for this season?

Lent is characterised by the stripping away of decorations and symbols so they have greater impact when they return with the Easter season. Decoration at the altar is kept to a minimum, stripping away flowers and altar frontals as another image of fasting.

The liturgical colour for Lent is a royal purple suggesting the kingship of Jesus achieved through his suffering, death and resurrection. How can your liturgical environment better reflect this season?
Musical arrangements for Lent should be simplified and only accompany singing. The Gloria is omitted and the Alleluia gives way to the Lenten Gospel Acclamation. This helps make them more special during Easter celebrations.

Lent is a time to consider acapella arrangements, or chanted texts.

You may also consider not singing at some times you would usually sing e.g. during the Presentation of Gifts.

Liturgical musicians can note the changing of seasons by changing the Mass setting that is sung as the liturgical seasons change. The setting for Lent should be simple and reflective.

As Lent draws to a close, Holy Week begins, leading us into the Easter season – the high point of our liturgical year. Everything flows from it and leads back to it.

Next month, we will look more closely at Easter. Meanwhile, have a look at the links on the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle website to help prepare for Easter: http://www.mn.catholic.org.au/catholic-faith/liturgy/the-liturgical-year .